The Seattle Effect

Walk into any office or company; ask people if they would like more energy and you'll get a half-smile and a resounding "yes!" There's no doubt that today's employees as a whole are overtired and overstressed. If you're not convinced just try to eavesdrop on a water-cooler conversation. You won't hear anything because they're not there. They're hovering around the coffee pot or in line at the corner coffee shop.

People are clearly searching for their energy but unfortunately they are finding it in double lattes, diet sodas, energy drinks and other quick fixes that do not last. After all, there are more Starbucks than ever, but America's work force seems to be getting more and more tired. I have dubbed this phenomenon the Seattle effect, named after the place that gave us the dynamic duo β€” not Batman and Robin, but Starbucks and Microsoft. The Seattle effect holds that too much caffeine and technology combined with too little sleep and exercise is causing America's tired/stress epidemic and costing companies billions of dollars.

To understand the Seattle effect, consider this scenario. Jane has more on her plate then ever before. She has projects to complete, e-mails to answer, voice mails to return, a Blackberry that doesn't stop buzzing and a cell phone that is always ringing. To try to get it all done, she drinks coffee throughout the day and stays up late at night. Both of these actions cause her to produce more stress hormones combined with the stress she is already experiencing. This stress drains her energy and causes her to feel tired and sluggish. To wake up and get energized Jane drinks more caffeine, which causes more stress, which affects her ability to get enough sleep, which leads to feeling more tired and consuming more caffeine and around and around the energy roller coaster she goes. In the short run, Jane can make this work but in the long run she'll pay a price in terms of her health, productivity, performance and success.

And Jane is not the only one who will pay a price. Her company will bear the burden in terms of healthcare costs, productivity costs and lost growth. Consider that workplace fatigue costs American businesses at least $77 billion per year, according to the National Sleep Foundation and that a lack of engagement costs companies $250-$300 billion, according to the Gallup Organization. Not to mention the percentage of doctor visits that are stress-related. This stress affects personal productivity and causes a rise in healthcare costs, according to the National Study of Changing Workforce.

The fact is that enhanced energy, success and performance cannot be found in a bottle and we cannot replace sleep with a double latte. While a doppio may help you take on the day, it will certainly impact you tomorrow. We cannot keep our engines running in overdrive and expect not to burn out. Just as the world must look for other fuel sources beyond oil, companies and businesses must invest in real and sustained sources of energy to fuel their employees. This fuel source is found in proven strategies that help you manage, cultivate and sustain your energy. Here are several tips you and your company can start today.

MEDITATE It's not just for Buddhist monks anymore. Athletes and executives are using it to improve focus, enhance energy and performance and reduce stress. The latest research in neuroscience shows that mediation is fuel for the mind and body.

TAKE A 10-MINUTE WALK A 10minute walk after lunch exponentially increases your metabolism and energy, prevents the after-lunch food coma and enhances your productivity in the afternoon.

MAKE TECHNOLOGY WORK Respond to e-mail only when you are finished with your current task. Shut off the cell phone when you are driving home from work. Use that time to unwind, breathe deeply and release tension and stress. Limit the number of times you check your e-mail during the day.

TAKE POWER BREAKS Every hour take a five-minute power break. During this break take 10 energizer breaths. Inhale for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. Stretch and massage your scalp and face for enhanced blood flow. Study after study shows that short breaks actually enhance overall productivity and decrease errors.

DRINK THE ULTIMATE ENERGY DRINK Sip water every 30 minutes throughout the day and you send a signal to your brain and body to stay alert and energized.

SWITCH THE OFFICE CANDY BOWL WITH A FRUIT BOWL Snack on fresh fruit and avoid the buzz β€” and crash β€” of refined sugar.

TIVO LATE NIGHT TV Encouraging yourself and your company to get more sleep will pay huge dividends in enhanced creativity and productivity. A 20-minute power nap is also recommended for enhanced energy and performance.

EAT BREAKFAST Contrary to popular belief a cup of coffee and a doughnut is not the breakfast of champions. Breakfast eaters who have protein- and fiber-filled breakfasts are more productive and alert at work and sustain their energy better throughout the day.

SWITCH COFFEE WITH GREEN TEA Green tea has only 20 to 40 mg of caffeine versus the 90 to 150 mg of caffeine in coffee. Green tea is also an antioxidant that may fight cancer and protect against heart disease. Encourage your company to offer green tea in addition to coffee in the break room.

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